Today we analyzed a simple sentence. That is not to say that the sentence was short. It had two phrases and looked every bit as long as some of the complex sentences we have looked at. I loved seeing how comfortable the students have become with making logical decisions and using resources. When I ask, “How do you know that?” students can point to evidence in either a dictionary or their Grammar Examiner (interactive notebook). Armed with that evidence, they look at how the words behave in the sentence and use reasoning to make their final decisions.
Just in case you are wondering who Fido and Sumo are, here’s a picture.
While some were discovering new things about familiar words this afternoon, one group introduced us to a brand new word. Zoe found it in a book she is reading. The word is sycophant. It is defined as a self server; one who uses flattery to win favor with one who yields influence. We might call such a person a “yes-man”. It was decided that this person would not be considered sincere and should not be believed. In Zoe’s book, the sycophant is not a person but a creature.
When it was time to practice our grammar, it felt right to incorporate our new word! Here is another example of how we use knowledge, logic, and reason to analyze and better understand the structure of a sentence.
I was very fortunate back in 2004! A student nominated me and I later received the Excellent Educator Award! As part of the Award, I was invited to attend a workshop by Michael Clay Thompson. He changed the way I teach grammar. Instead of staying with each part of speech until mastery, he recommended that I teach everything about sentences within the first month of school. And by “everything” I mean the eight parts of speech, the five parts of a sentence, phrases, types of sentences, and sentence structure. Then I can spend the rest of the school year having the students analyze sentences and apply their knowledge.
My students and I have loved this format. Each new sentence is like a puzzle and we use logic and knowledge to solve it. This week we were ready and began the four level analysis that will now become part of our weekly routine. In the first video, the students identify parts of speech.
In the next video the students go on to identify parts of the sentence (subject, predicate, subject complement), phrases (at this point they know only prepositional phrases), type of sentence (declarative), and finally sentence structure (compound I, cc I).
With this kind of analysis happening all year long, the students will really get a much better sense of how sentences are built. It will also give us some common ideas to talk about when discussing their writing. Love it!
Normally, I would put a sentence up on the whiteboard and call on students to identify the
A) Parts of speech
B) Parts of the sentence (subject/predicate/direct object/indirect object/subject complement)
C) Phrases (prepositional/appositive/infinitive/gerund/participial)
D) Type of sentence (declarative/interrogative/exclamatory/imperative) and sentence structure (Simple Independent Clause/Compound I,cc I/Complex ID/Complex D,I)
But since our work with word investigations, I’ve noticed how much the students love figuring things out in small collaborative groups. So I wrote out sentences on long pieces of construction paper. Each pair of students was given a sentence and asked to analyze it. I created two of each sentence so that when groups were finished they could compare their analysis with the other group that analyzed the same sentence. The last step will be for the four who analyzed each sentence to present their analysis on the whiteboard.
I was so pleased to hear the students use reason and logic in making their decisions. Team members felt comfortable challenging suggestions being made, and each pair ultimately made their decisions based on evidence from either a dictionary, their brochure, or their Grammar Examiner notebook. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, we are past the days of wild guessing and instead, expecting the order of things to make sense!
I was particularly impressed that with such interesting and complicated looking sentences, they ended up making very few errors. At this point in the semester, the students are discovering that one word can be more than one part of speech, depending on its use in the sentence. It’s interesting to listen to them critically think about which identification is most likely.
During this video the students were analyzing and identifying a compound sentence. I first learned about analyzing sentences in this manner when I listened to Michael Clay Thompson at a seminar. I was fascinated. The students are really able to make better sense of how this all works together when they see all the pieces in action. Every sentence is new, but the structures become recognizable … as do the subjects and predicates … and all of the rest of it. I compare it to listening to an orchestra and talking about the role of the various instruments and how they complement each other…. and all while the orchestra is playing. We are listening and making sense of it at the same time.
In our classroom we analyze sentences about three times a week. We’ve been doing this since late October. Before that the students had a crash course in the eight parts of speech and the five parts of a sentence. During their crash course, they made an interactive notebook that we fondly refer to as their “Grammar Examiner”. It is a combination of information I handed out that they then taped in and information or practice that they did on their own. It included many mind maps throughout so that the students had opportunity to reflect on what they were learning.
We began with simple sentences. After the students were familiar with the layers of analysis, I began to add phrases (prepositional, appositive, and infinitive). Gradually other sentence structures were introduced. In the last month the students have become comfortable with the fact that certain words can be identified as more than one part of speech, depending on their use. The sentence analysis then becomes a logic puzzle to solve. With each new sentence, the students get more comfortable in their own ability to reason things out. They not only learn the specific names of things , but also the relationships of one to another in a sentence.
The best part for me is when I can use the language they now understand to talk about their own writing – their own sentence structures.
Early in the year we rushed through learning the parts of speech and the main parts of a sentence (subject, predicate, direct and indirect object, and subject complement). Since October, we have been applying that learning and beginning to understand what each part of speech’s job is in a sentence. We’re seeing how words are related to one another in a sentence. This video is in two parts. Part One demonstrates the students identifying parts of speech. With this particular sentence there were more a-ha! moments than usual. I enjoyed their enthusiasm very much. I hope you do too.
Next the students identified the important parts of the sentence and phrases. Lastly they identified the type of sentence (declarative, imperative, interrogative, exclamatory) and its sentence structure (Simple I, Compound I,ccI, Complex D,I, Complex ID).
As you can see, the students are extremely engaged in this activity. They are learning to question their previous learning (one example: that before is only a preposition) and contribute thoughtful ideas. They collaborate in this effort. Even as a whole class activity, everyone is eager to participate. They make connections to previous learning, and in the process strengthen their current learning.